The Humble and Contrite in Spirit
The opening words of the last chapter of Isaiah were written to the unrepentant people of Israel. They need not think that, in that condition, they can please God by building a temple for Him. After all, He is enthroned in heaven with earth as His footstool. The dwelling place He desires is the heart of a person who is humble and contrite:
–William MacDonald (and all following notes in red)
Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word.
Those who are impenitent offend God by their religions observances. When divorced from practical holiness, their sacrifices and offerings are crimes and abominations. They can choose their hypocritical ways, but they cannot choose the consequences. God will do that:
3 “He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man;
he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck;
he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood;
he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol.
These have chosen their own ways,
and their soul delights in their abominations;
4 I also will choose harsh treatment for them
and bring their fears upon them,
because when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, they did not listen;
but they did what was evil in my eyes
and chose that in which I did not delight.”
Those faithful, God-fearing Jews who tremble at His word will be persecuted by their own community. The wicked persecutors will think that they are doing God service, as is evidenced by their pseudo-pious taunt, “Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy,” that is, your joy at being miraculously delivered. But the Lord will intervene to shame their foes:
5 Hear the word of the Lord,
you who tremble at his word:
“Your brothers who hate you
and cast you out for my name’s sake
have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified,
that we may see your joy’;
but it is they who shall be put to shame.
6 “The sound of an uproar from the city!
A sound from the temple!
The sound of the Lord,
rendering recompense to his enemies!
Rejoice with Jerusalem
7 “Before she was in labor
she gave birth;
before her pain came upon her she delivered a son.
8 Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?
For as soon as Zion was in labor
she brought forth her children.
9 Shall I bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?”
says the Lord;
“shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?”
says your God.
The day of Israel’s restoration will be a time of great rejoicing in Jerusalem:
10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her;
11 that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
from her glorious abundance.”
12 For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
and bounced upon her knees.
13 As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
“This is a peculiarly delightful metaphor. A father can comfort, but I think he is not much at home as the work. When God speaks about his pity, he compares himself to their father: ‘Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth, them that fear him.’ But when he speaks about comfort, he selects the mother. When I have seen the little ones sick, I have felt all the pity in the world for them, but I did not know how to set to work to comfort them; but a mother knows by instinct how to do it.”
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
14 You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;
your bones shall flourish like the grass;
and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,
and he shall show his indignation against his enemies.
Final Judgment and Glory of the Lord
The Lord’s Second Coming will mean the unleashing of His fiery indignation against all idolaters and rebels. He sees them going through ceremonies to make themselves ritually clean, only to engage in the most abominable idolatrous practices.
15 “For behold, the Lord will come in fire,
and his chariots like the whirlwind,
to render his anger in fury,
and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire will the Lord enter into judgment,
and by his sword, with all flesh;
and those slain by the Lord shall be many.
17 “Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one in the midst, eating pig’s flesh and the abomination and mice, shall come to an end together, declares the Lord.
18 “For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations. 20 And they shall bring all your brothers from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses and in chariots and in litters and on mules and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.
Psalm 126 (NIV)
A song of ascents.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
21 And some of them also I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord.
22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth
that I make
shall remain before me, says the Lord,
so shall your offspring and your name remain.
23 From new moon to new moon,
and from Sabbath to Sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
declares the Lord.
24 “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
The book of Isaiah closes with a sobering contrast, revealing the ultimate, eternal importance of this present life. Each life can choose its destiny: worship or the worm. Which is it for you?
All this brings home the folly, futility and sinfulness of pursuing our own way, carrying out our own designs and turning after that in which God cannot take pleasure, instead of waiting upon Him, listening to His voice and delighting in the fulfillment of His will. Through our walking with God He fulfills, and will fulfill, all the promises of His Word. He responds to delighted confidence in Him, by adding an Amen to His assurance. The peace of an obedient heart and a trusting spirit is that which enjoys the sunshine of His countenance and the calmness of holy communion with Him.
–W. E. Vine
THE END of the book of Isaiah.
HERE is Chris Rice singing an old favorite which matches up so beautifully to this chapter: “It is Well with My Soul.” The first words of the hymn are from v. 12 of this chapter — When peace like a river . . . (The song finishes at 4:38.)